Their story has a bitter beginning. Noa Ofir and Yair Zribi met at a house of mourning. They were both grieving the death of their mutual friend, Oded Ben Sira.
Sergeant First Class Ben Sira was killed by sniper fire in the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2014, during Israel’s military operation, Protective Edge (Tzuk Eitan). He had completed his compulsory army service but opted to remain in Gaza to fight with his unit. Oded was laid to rest in the cemetery at the religious moshav (settlement) where had lived, Nir Ezion, in northern Israel.
Yair and Oded both grew up in Nir Ezion and were friends from childhood. Yair was traveling in Slovenia when he heard of Oded’s tragic death but was determined to make it home in time for the funeral.
Oded’s shiva brought together family and friends from all over Israel. Nir Etzion is about 18 kilometers south of Haifa, and the religious young people from the two communities were very close. “Oded was my friend,” says Noa, who grew up in Haifa.
Noa, then 22, and Yair, 23, knew many of the same people but did not know one another. “We were both at the shiva almost the whole time,” recalls Yair, “and that’s when we first noticed each other.”
A day after the shiva, Yair sent Noa a text message and invited her for a milkshake. They continued to text throughout the day, and by the time they went out that night for their first date, there was already a strong connection. “In fact, we even talked about wedding songs,” smiles Noa. They both liked the Hebrew song by Amir Benayun, “I have a dream,” beginning with the words, “You understand me in the most difficult moments.”
Noa knows when something feels right. After graduating high school, she signed up for Sherut Leumi, the national service option for religious girls, and worked in a hospital to help children with cancer. “After my first day, I decided I wanted to be a nurse,” says Noa. Today Noa is a second-year student at The School of Nursing at Sheba Medical Center.
Until the summer of 2014, neither Noa nor Yair had dated much. “But after our first date, we were pretty much inseparable,” says Yair. That is, when they are both in the same city at the same time. Yair is a first-year student in Chinese Business at the University of Haifa. Noa’s school is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.
“Yair likes to talk and I enjoy listening,” says Noa. “And we both enjoy music and going on hikes.” About four months after they met, Yair proposed to Noa. “I don’t get surprised easily,” explains Noa. “But Yair caught me off guard. He’s an amazing organizer.”
At their marriage ceremony, Noa and Yair remembered the past and looked forward to the future. The father of their dear friend, Oded, recited two of the blessings under the chuppa. Afterwards, the guests danced to the song of Amir Benayun, which ends: “I have hope, that with the help of faith, we will be able to fulfill our dream.”
Noa and Yair were married in the town of Kiryat Ata on March 9, 2015. Mazal tov.
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question: How Jewish couples meet and marry. In the 90’s she founded two nonprofit Jewish matchmaking programs, and continues to champion the role of community in helping singles meet. She resides in Jerusalem and Great Neck, New York.